Portland Paralympian brings home gold medal with USA sled hockey - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland Paralympian brings home gold medal with USA sled hockey team

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A few local athletes brought home medals in both the Olympics and Paralympics during the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. One of those athletes now has a pair of gold medals along with his Purple Heart.

After nine years in the Army, Rico Roman has spend the past decade learning a new way of life. 

Growing up playing basketball, football, soccer and wrestling, it's the sport of sled hockey that has helped put a smile back on the face of the true American hero.

"It means the world to me to be able to represent my country and to wear the red, white and blue, and see that big USA on the front. For me, that's huge," said Roman.

The Portland-raised Army veteran is now a two-time USA Sled Hockey Paralympic gold medalist after Team USA rallied late in regulation last weekend before defeating Canada in overtime during the gold medal match in Pyeongchang.

"I definitely controlled my emotions for Sochi. I didn't cry at all but this one, my guys got the feels going. I was spraying my face with water and trying not to cry," said Roman.

A center on Team USA, Roman never grew up playing hockey.

"I play ugly hockey. I'm not like a finesse player. I wish I got all of the goals," he said.

Roman was introduced to the sport by Operation Comfort, a program that provides support to service members that have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We all might see some bad times in our life. For me it was a bomb. I wish that no one ever sees a bomb in their lifetime," said Roman.

Back in 2007, an IED injured both of his legs and eventually led to the amputation above the knee on his left side.

"I knew very well what I was getting into going into the military. I knew very well what could happen to me, it's not a game. Unfortunately, I got injured," said Roman. "You are going to have hurdles in life and it's what we do after these hurdles that make us who we are. I feel like through it all, just keep smiling, enjoy the little things, and you never know what may come in the future."

That future brought a new challenge of sled hockey.

"I said no so many times. I didn't want nothing to do with it," Roman said. "It was the locker room that, it was something I needed. We had an all veteran team there, all different branches of the service."

Roman is joined on the team by another Army veteran and four Marine Corps members that have assisted him in getting back to the loving father and husband he was.

"I've got a 16 and 14-year-old, so dad's not cool anymore. I've got teens, even with a gold medal, still not cool," he said.

Roman will be at Saturday's game one of the Winterhawks first round playoff series at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.  He and a teammate will be raising money to help their efforts in starting a Portland Winterhawks sled hockey team.

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